McNeese’s rally falls short vs. Southeastern in SLC Tip-Off semifinals

KATY - MARCH 7: Southland Conference Basketball Tip-Off Tournament: Championship Round: McNeese...
KATY - MARCH 7: Southland Conference Basketball Tip-Off Tournament: Championship Round: McNeese State vs. Southeastern Louisiana from the Leonard E. Merrell Center in Katy on January 7, 2022 in Katy, Texas (Photo by Erik Williams/Southland Communications)(Erik Williams | Erik Williams-Southland Communic)
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 8:18 PM CST
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KATY, Texas - McNeese rallied from a 16-point early second-half deficit to take a one-point lead at 71-70 following a Zach Scott three-pointer with 7:22 to play, but Southeastern outscored the Cowboys 13-8 the rest of the way to escape with an 83-78 win to advance to the championship game of the 2022 Southland Tip-Off Tournament.

Scott scored nine of his season-high 17 points in the second half which included one of his three treys for the game. Kellon Taylor led McNeese (5-10) with 18 points while Myles Lewis added 15 points.

Gus Okafor and Ryan Burkhardt each scored 20 to lead the Lions (6-9).

Scott started things off with a three-pointer just seconds into the game as the Cowboys scored the first five points of the contest and led 10-8 at the 15:18 mark before SLU scored five straight behind a Roscoe Eastmond three-pointer and Okafor basket to go up 13-10.

McNeese kept the game within one or two possessions for the next six minutes and trailed 23-22 after a couple of Taylor freebies with 8:26 to play in the half to cut the Lion lead to 23-22. From there, Southeastern closed out the half on a 29-18 run to go into the break leading 52-40.

SLU scored the first four points of the second half to go up 56-40 less than a minute into play and led 63-47 at the 14:38 mark before McNeese began chipping away at the lead as the defense forced the Lions into bad shots while forcing turnovers.

Led by Collin Warren three-pointer to pull McNeese to within 66-54 with 12:42 to play, McNeese rolled off a 17-1 run to take a 68-67 lead following a Johnathan Massie jumper with 7:59 to play.

During the run, McNeese forced the Lions into four turnovers, capitalized on a Class A technical foul by Burkhardt, and held SLU to 0-7 shooting from the floor in the 6-minute run.

After SLU regained the lead off a Caldwell 3, the Cowboys tied things back up following a Christian Shumate free throw at 72-72 at the 6:38 mark. From there, the Lions scored nine straight to build an 81-72 lead with 3:40 to play but McNeese battled back with three straight baskets - Lewis and back-to-back Taylor buckets - to make it an 81-78 game with 1:43 to go.

McNeese had an opportunity to pull closer but a turnover with 27 seconds remaining led to two free throws by the Lions to give them the five-point win.

The Cowboys shot 52 percent from the field (30 of 58) and hit 61 percent (14 of 23) in the first half. The team connected on 5 of 14 (36 percent) from three-point range and hit 13 of 20 (65 percent) at the free throw line.

SLU shot 50 percent (26 of 52) for the game, 57 percent (13 of 23) from behind the arc and 86 percent (18 of 21) at the line.

McNeese held a 37-23 advantage in rebounding and outscored the Lions 38-22 in the paint.

The Cowboys will play again at 5 p.m. on Saturday against either Nicholls or Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the third-place game.

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